Old-Fashioned Navy Bean & Ham Soup

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Fall in Alaska is that glorious 3 days of the year where the leaves turn beautiful shades of yellow and orange, there’s a distinct smell of sour cranberries and wood smoke lingering in the air, and the Chugach mountains look like they’re on fire with all the brilliant red of the dwarf birch and blueberry bushes.

bean-and-ham-2Well, those days are long gone.  What we are left with are bare branches, a chill in the air that feels more like a “freeze” than a gentle “nip,” and 1,386,798 political mailers, radio ads, and commercials.  Every.  Single.  Day.

My pesky “day job” has been hogging so much of my evenings and weekends of late as the election nears that I’ve barely had time to throw a piece of toast in the toaster.   But last weekend, to thank some of my comrades at the office who have been working their little tails off with me, I made a huge pot of warm, comforting old-fashioned navy bean & ham soup.  They devoured it, bless them.

bean-and-ham-3That’s the beauty of good food.  It is completely, totally, 100% bipartisan.  No, it’s even better than that.  It is non-partisan, a-political, and it’s the kind of leadership we need in Washington, D.C.

Crap.  Sorry.  Old habits die hard!

I love how easy this soup is to make.  Soak the beans and chop up all the ingredients the night before, then throw everything in the crockpot in the morning and walk away for 10-12 hours.  Magic.

Also, your house will smell FANTASTIC.  Best air-freshener ever.

So, turn off your TV and radio, leave your mail in the mailbox, and make this soup to brighten up a chilly fall day.  And then remember to VOTE on November 4th!

For more recipes like this, check out the Chena Girl Cooks blog.

Navy Bean & Ham Soup

1 lb. dried beans, sorted and rinsed (navy, great northern, or cannellini beans are great, but whatever dried bean you have on hand should work)
9 c. water
3 medium carrots, peeled or scrubbed well and diced
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups ham, chopped, or one ham shank
1 bay leaf
2 fresh thyme sprigs, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper
a few dashes of hot sauce, such as Tobasco (optional)
1/2 teaspoon granulated toasted onion (optional)

drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, for serving

(1) In a large crock pot, soak beans in 9 cups of cold water overnight.

(2) In the morning, turn the crockpot on low.  Add all other ingredients except the olive oil.  Cook on low setting for about 8-10 hours.

(3) Remove bay leaf and thyme sprigs.  If using a ham shank, remove shank from pot and chop/shred all ham off the shank and place back in the soup pot.  May sure to “fish” around the soup for any other bones.  Taste soup and re-season with salt and pepper as needed.  Serve with a drizzle of olive oil.

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Heidi was born and raised in Fairbanks, and grew up in and around the waters of the Chena River. She graduated with a degree in History from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and received her law degree from Willamette University. A lawyer by day and self-taught home cook at night, she is passionate about cooking and creating tasty, uncomplicated food. She is also a firm believer in buying local produce and products whenever possible, and is an avid fisherwoman. She currently lives in Anchorage with her trusty terrier, Milo.

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